Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Investigators of suicide bomb attack expect arrests soon

AFP , ISLAMABAD

Investigators probing the suicide bomb attack on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Christmas Day are expected to make arrests soon, the chief government spokesman said yesterday.

"The progress of investigations has been very positive so far," information minister Sheikh Rashid said.

Those responsible for planning the attacks are expected to be arrested soon, he said.

"We have entered the network of suspects and soon will get everybody."

Rashid said the same teams assigned with the task of investigating a Dec. 14 attack on Musharraf were also working on the latest assassination attempt.

Asked who could be behind the suicide attacks he said: "These could be domestic and international terror networks."

"We will deal with an iron hand with the people playing with the security and solidarity of the country."

Musharraf escaped unhurt on Thursday when suicide bombers driving cars packed with explosives rammed the Pakistani leader's motorcade at a gas station 2km from his residence in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad.

Officials said 15 people, including the two suicide attackers, were killed and 45 injured. Another victim had died overnight. The dead include four policemen, Rawalpindi police chief Marwat Shah said.

Analysts and commentators suspect that al-Qaeda militants and religious fanatics in Pakistan could be behind an increasingly organized effort to kill Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led war against terror.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said on Friday the bombers in the latest attack had been identified by security agencies, but no further information was immediately available.

"The suicide bombers involved in the attack on Thursday have been identified," he told the upper house of parliament. "The face of one is recognizable."

He would not provide further details, saying this could hamper the inquiry.

"We are also actively pursuing those who are at the back [of the people] committing these crimes."

All possible measures were being taken to safeguard the president's life, he said.

"We are not going to yield to any of these terrorist activities. This government is committed to uprooting terrorism, extremism and sectarian hatred."

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